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[From MISHKAN 37 (2002), pp. 21-34.; 

Paul Phillip Levertoff: Pioneering 
Hebrew-Christian Scholar and Leader 

Jorge Quihonez 

My father danced a Hassidic dance the day before he died. 

His daughters they were far away, his wife was by his side. . . 

He danced for Jesus his Messiah who rose up from the dead 

And left the tomb for the upper room 

and was known in the breaking of bread. . . 

Except you become as a little child my kingdom you shall not see. 

So he danced in his joy as he did when a boy and often he danced for me. ..^ 


Paul Phillip Levertoff is best known to the modern world as the Jewish believer 
in Jesus (JBJ) who helped translate the Zohar into English for Soncino Press, a 
leading publisher of Judaica.^ Less well known about Levertoff, as we will see, is 
the fact that he was a major pioneer in the Hebrew Christian movement of his 
time. The noted historian on JBJs, Jakob Jocz, includes Levertoff in his short list 
of distinguished late 19th and early 20th century JBJ, 

Of the many other missionaries of the house of Israel, the names of Salkinson, Cassel, Lucky, 
the two Lichtensteins, Schonberger, Joseph Immanuel Landsmann, and Dr. P. P. Levertoff. . . 
They can all he characterized by devotion to the missionary cause, simplicity of faith, and 
great Talmudic learning.^ 

In the Encyclopaedia Judaica, several on Jocz's list are given their own entries 
and Levertoff is one of these few.^ Levertoff comes rather late on the scene, too 

Jorge Quinonez (jorgequinonez@yahoo.coin) (B. S., San Diego State University; M. Ed., 
National University) is an educator and researcher in San Diego, California, U.S.A. 
Citations that read "Denise Levertov Papers, M0601, Box X, Folder Y" are courtesy of the 
Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries and published by 
permission of the Denise Levertov Literary Trust, Valerie Trueblood Rapport and Paul 
A. Lacey, Trustees. 

' Olga [ Tatjana] Levertoff, "The Ballad of My Father" in Denise Levertov, The Sorrow 

Dance (New York: New Directions, 1966), 93-94. 

^ See Harry Sperling, Maurice Simon, and Paul Phillip Levertoff (translators), Zohar. Vol. 

3 (London: Soncino Press, 1933); Maurice Simon and Paul Phillip Levertoff (translators), 

Zohar. Vol. 4. (London: Soncino Press, 1933). 

' Jakob Jocz, The Jewish People and Jesus Christ (London: S. P. C. K., 1949), 255. 

"* Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem: Macmillan, Vol. 11, 1972), 71; Cf. Leonard Prager, 

Yiddish Culture in Britain (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1990), 405. 

22 Jorge Quinonez 

late to be included in the principal biographies or studies on JBJ.' He is 
conspicuously absent in one modern biographical anthology of JBJ.'' This article 
endeavors to provide a brief assessment of Levertoff's life and work, focusing 
on the interesting highlights and accomplishments in his life. 

Early Life 

Paul Phillip Levertoff was born in Orsha, Belarus, to Saul and Batya Levertoff.' 
When this happened is not entirely clear: one source** states 12 October 1875, 
while another' states 14 October 1878. His birth name was probably not "Paul 
Phillip." In a letter in Hebrew from Paul's father, Saul Levertoff, to Paul 
Levertoff himself, Saul Levertoff employs Paul's Hebrew/Yiddish name, 
"Feivel" '" This was almost certainly his original Jewish name since "Paul 
Phillip" is a Christian name. 

His family came from a Sephardic background whose religious persuasion 
was Hassidic." According to more than one source, '^ he was a descendent of 
Rabbi Schneur Zalman. He received a traditional education in the cheder (a 
Hebrew primary school). In one instance, Denise Levertov, his younger 
daughter," describes her father's first childhood encounter with the New 
Testament and Jesus: 

' Aaron Bernstein, Jewish Witnesses for Christ (London: O.J.C.I., 1909) [reprinted 1999 by 

Keren Ahvah Meshihit, Israel]; Johannes Friedrich Alexander de le Roi, Die evangelische 

Christenheit und diejuden, Volumes 1, 2, and 3 (Berlin: H. Reuther, 1891). 

'' See Jacob Gartenhaus. Famous Hebrew Christians. TN: I.B.J.M. (1998); The most likely 

explanation why Levertoff is not included in this book is that Gartenhaus himself states 

(p. 12) that he is heavily dependent on late 19th century secondary sources (cf. note 6). 

^ Karina Lehnardt. "LEVERTOFF, Paul Phillip." <http:/ / 

Levertoff.shtml> June 1998. 

* According to an e-mail copy (dated 7 March 2002) of an unpublished record on 

Levertoff, courtesy of Charles Hundley from "The Church's Ministry among the Jewish 

People" (or CMJ, formerly known as the London Jews Society or the LjS) with it 

headquarters based in England. According to this information, Levertoff's birth date is 

"12 Oct 1875 at Janowitsch, near Vitwpsk, Russia". This becomes more interesting: he 

applied for work with the LJS in late 1896 (according to the unpublished CMJ record). If 

he was born in 1875, he would have been 21 years old at the time of application, 

otherwise if he was born in 1878 he would only have been 18 years old-rather young to 

be employed by the LIS! 

' Karina Lehnardt, "LEVERTOFF, Paul Phillip." 

^° Denise Levertov Papers, M0601, Box 15, Folder 17. Thanks to Tsvi Sadan for pointing 

this out. 

" Olga Tatjana Levertoff, "Paul Levertoff and the lewish-Christian Problem" in Lev 

Gillet (ed.), Judaism and Christianity/Essays presented to the Rev, Paul P. Levertoff, D.D, 

(London: I.B. Shears & Sons, 1939), 93. 

^^ Rabbi Schneur Zalman was ". . .his [grandfather's] mother's uncle. . ." ([ no author]. 

"Thirty Years Work" from The Church and the Jews, No. 180, Autumn (1954), 4, located in 

the Denise Levertov Papers, M0601, Box 34, Folder 36); Cf., Linda Welshimer Wagner, 

Denise Levertov (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1967), 24. 

" Paul Levertoff had two daughters: Olga Tatjana Levertoff and Denise Levertov. Denise 

changed the spelling of her surname to 'Levertov' because her sister was already getting 

published with the surname 'Levertoff so readers could distinguish between them. 

Paul Phillip Levertoff 23 

One day when he was eight or nine my father was walking home ...As he trudged homeward 
my father's eye was caught by a scrap of printed paper lying in the gray, trampled snow. 
Though he was a playful, disobedient boy like any other, he was also - like his playmates - a 
little Talmud scholar, respectful of words; and he saw at a glance, too, that this paper was not 
printed in Russian but in Hebrew. So he picked it up and began to read. Could it be a 
fragment of Torah? Never before had he read such a story: about a boy like himself who - it 
said - was found in the Temple expounding the scriptures to the old, reverent, important 
rabbis! [Luke 2:46-47] 

My father took the scrap - it was obviously a page from a book - home to his father. The effect 
was startling. ...his father became angry - not with him, exactly, but rather with the text he 
had brought to show him. He tore it into pieces and thrust them into the stove. My father was 
vehemently told to avoid such writings, utterly, if ever he should again encounter them; but 
just what they were, and how to tell them from holy writ, was not explained. My father was 
awed to see written words destroyed - Hebrew words. It was not if it had been a mere scrap of 
Russian newspaper. 

Secretly, he wished he had not given up the mysterious fragment. Who was the wise boy in 
the story? " 

An interest had awakened in the young Levertoff. By his teenage years, he 
was attending the Volozhin Yeshiva.'^ This Lithuanian Jewish seminary was 
one of the most prominent in its day. Here Levertoff received an exemplary 
rabbinic education/'' knowledge that he would demonstrate in his later years. 
He was on his way to becoming a rabbi. Denise Levertov called her father "a 
precocious graduate. . ."'^ of this institute, which meant he graduated early. 
Afterwards Saul Levertoff, Paul Levertoff's father, had to send him out of the 
country to the Prussian city of Konigsberg (modern day Kaliningrad) to obtain 
a university education because Jews were not permitted to study in Russian 

Paul Phillip Levertoff's fascination with Jesus continued through his 
adolescent years. It was near the end of the 19th century, at the University of 
Konigsberg where Levertoff reached a very important conclusion about Jesus 
that would affect him the rest of his life for it was here 

Denise became a very famous poet in America who later became Catholic but still 

considered herself Jewish. She died in late 1997. 

^* Denise Levertov, Tessarae/Memorie & Suppositions ( New York: New Directions Books, 

1995), 4-5. Another source mentions the scrap of paper to be from the book of John, cf. 

" day [Levertoff] found about the street of the little Russian town some leaves torn 

from a book that had been printed in Hebrew, he was amazed to read something that 

seemed to him Hassidic; but so strange, for it related in detail an account of the Messiah 

who had been crucified. It was parts of the Gospel according to St. John." ("Thirty Years 

Work", 4) 

^' Located at the time in what is currently modern Belarus. This Yeshiva was founded in 

1802 by Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin (1749-1821), a disciple of the Vilna Gaon. Much of the 

Jewish population of Volozhin perished in the Holocaust. Today, the Yeshiva survives 

transplanted in Israel. Denise Levertov mispells it "Valojine", Jewel Spears Brooker (ed.). 

Conversations with Denise Levertov (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1998), 90.) 

and "Volojine" which appears to be the French spelling (Levertov, Tessarae/Memorie & 

Suppositions, 6). 

" Denise Levertov, Tessarae/Memorie & Suppositions, 6. 

^^ Denise Levertov, Tessarae/Memorie & Suppositions, 6. 

24 Jorge Quinonez the Gentile, utterly secular atmosphere of the Prussian city, this hook [i.e., the Gospels] 
of the Christians seemed more his than theirs. He read it in German, then in Hebrew. . . And 
as he read he experienced a profound and shaking new conviction. This Jesus of 
Nazareth... had indeed been the Messiah. ^^ 

The year this occurred was 1895" when Levertoff was only 17 or 18 years 
old. Predictably his "family was appalled"^" after he told them of his new belief. 
At this point, he seems to have had a major argument with his father - most 
likely over his new belief - that led him to abruptly leave home.^' Without 
financial support from his parents, he had to go it alone. He was baptized in 11 
August 1895 in Konigsberg.^^For the next several years he "...supported 
himself by tutoring and undertaking translations to and from the various 
languages he knew."^^ Seeking employment as a missionary on 11 December 
1896,^^ he applied for a position with the London Jews Society (LJS). ^' He was 
accepted and soon worked full time in his new vocation. 

Missionary Translator and Writer 

For reasons unknown, Levertoff changed Jewish missions organizations in 1901, 
having joined the staff of the Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel (HCTI), 
founded by two other JBJ, David Baron and Charles Andrew Schonberger in 
1893. A thorough search of the CMJ archives in Oxford might shed light on the 
question of what Levertoff did in the LJS. 

Levertoff first appeared in the HCTI's periodical. The Scattered Nation in 
1901^'' and continued to appear frequently in its pages through 1909 in his 
reports and articles. He was one of the HCTI's most active missionaries, 
traveling throughout Europe and the Mediterranean under their employ. He 
usually traveled together with David Baron, who was 23 years older than 

'* Denise Levertov, Tessarae/Memorie & Suppositions , 7; cf.. Jewel Spears Brooker (ed.). 

Conversations with Denise Levertov (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1998), 90. 

" Cf. Karina Lehnardt, "LEVERTOFF, Paul Phillip. "; Encyclopaedia Judaica, " Levertoff, 

Paul Phillip"; "Thirty Years Work", 4. 

^° Denise Levertov, Tessarae/Memorie & Suppositions, 7. 

^' Reportedly later in his life, Levertoff, regretted having fled his parents because they 

did not agree with his new belief that Jesus was the Messiah for he ". . .often felt that if he 

had been wiser he would have gained his father, for he realised how near the Kingdom 

he was." ("Thirty Years Work", 4). 

^^ E-mail from Charles Hundley of CMJ (dated 7 March 2002) of an unpublished record 

on Levertoff. 

^' Denise Levertov, Tessarae/Memorie & Suppositions, 8. 

^* E-mail from Charles Hundley of CMJ (dated 7 March 2002) of an unpublished record 

on Levertoff. 

^' Short for "The London Society for promoting Christianity amongst the Jews". 

^'' Paul Levertoff, "Experiences at Our New Centre" in The Scattered Nation 26 (April 

1901), 253-255. 

Paul Phillip Levertoff 25 

Levertoff. They visited Hungary and Bosnia in 1905^^ and Egypt and Palestine 
in 1908.''* 

No less than seven original works and translations in Hebrew by Levertoff 
were published in London between 1902 and 1909 by several London area 
publishers and the HCTI publishing house's Hebrew name, Edut leYisrael}'' His 
Hebrew writings did not go unnoticed within Jewish missionary circles: Arthur 
Lukyn Williams said "Good work has been done in recent years in the 
presentation of the life of our Lord to the Jews by... Levertoff. In this connection 
may be mentioned... Levertoff's St. Paul. His Life, Works, and Travels, 1907 (in 
modern Hebrew)..."™ For nearly a decade, he served the HCTI as their principal 
Hebrew translator and writer. 

Also noteworthy about Levertoff's Hebrew writings was the fact that Viduyei 
Augustinus ha-Kadosh ("The Confessions of St. Augustine") was the first 
translation into Hebrew of a major work by a Latin Church Father. Levertoff's 
book on Jesus in Hebrew, Ben ha- Adam, ("The Son of Man") predated Joseph 
Klausner's own book on Jesus, Yeshu ha-Notsri,^^ by over 17 years, which itself is 
generally considered the first book written on Jesus and Christianity's early 
beginnings by a Jewish scholar in Modern Hebrew. Regarding Levertoff's Ben 
ha-Adam, Klausner said. 

The plain purpose of the writer (in spite of what he says to the contrary in his Preface [to Ben 
ha-Adam], p. xxi) is to win adherents to Christianity from among Russian Jews who read 
Hebrew; and such a hook is not to he relied upon for objective and single-minded scholarship. 
The author skillfully refrains from imposing upon us most of the unacceptable miracles; he 
follows (as he tells us in his preface) P.W. Schmidt's excellent "Die Geschicte Jesu 
erzdhlt. ..["] save that he conceals a few miracles and some missionary teaching in an account 
of natural facts (obviously not always explained as they should be) and a presentation of the 
ethical teachings of Jesus. . . . And this has been the only work about Jesus in modern Hebrew 

'^ David Baron & Paul Levertoff, "Down the Danube to Hungary and Bosnia" in The 

Scattered Nation 42 (April 1905), 317. 

'* David Baron & Paul Levertoff, "A Mission Tour of Egypt and Palestine" in The 

Scattered Nation 55 (July 1908), 135-150. 

'' The titles of the publication were as follows; Yisra'el, emunato ute'udato [Israel's 

Religion and Destiny] (London: Edut leYisrael, 1902); Ben ha-Adam, Chayey Yeshua ha- 

Mashiach upealav [The Son of Man. A Survey of the Life and Deeds of Jesus Christ] 

(London, 1904); ha-Amek She'ala (London, 1905) [partial Hebrew translation of Franz 

Delitzsch's Ernste Fragen an die Gebildeten Judischer Religion]; Polus ha-Shaliach, o, Sha'ul ish 

Tarsus: hayav, po'olav u-nesi'otav [St. Paul. His Life, Works, and Travels] (London: Y. 

Neroditski, 1905); Viduyei Augustinus ha-Kadosh [The Confessions of St. Augustine]. 

(London: Luzac, 1906); Tomas Karlel: hashkefotav vede'otav, reshimot bikortiyot [Thomas 

Carlyle. A Lecture] (London: Luzac, 1907); Hu veAni [He and I] (London: Edut leYisrael, 


™ Hermann L. Strack, Jahrbuch der evangelischen Judenmission/Yearbookof the 

Evangelical Missions among the Jews, Vol. 2 (Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichssche Buchhandlung, 

1913), 13. 

'^Joseph Klausner, Yeshu ha- Notsri: zemano, hayav ue-torafo. Jerusalem: Shtibel [1922], 3; 

(In English:) loseph Klausner. Jesus Of Nazareth (New York: MacMillan, 1925), 11. 

'^ Joseph Klausner, Jesus Of Nazareth, 124. 

26 Jorge Quinonez 

Among Levertoff's publications from 1902 and 1909, Hu veAnP ("He and I") 
is worth discussing because of its seemingly autobiographical veneer. It is the 
story of a young yeshiva student, a JBJ, who is going to be punished for his 
belief. Another character in the story is an old friend of his who knew him 
before he came to his new belief in Jesus through the efforts of a wandering 
missionary. The main character escapes his punishment through chance and the 
two characters desire to discuss belief in Jesus; however, the main character, the 
JBJ, has to leave the town the next morning. The story ends before this occurs. It 
is apparent that Levertoff integrates some of his own early personal history into 
this story. He is like the main character, who leaves his town because of his 
belief in Jesus, which came about through his encounter with missionary 

In 1910, Baron announced in The Scattered Nation that "Mr. Paul Levertoff 
[had] accept[ed] an invitation from the United Free Church of Scotland Jewish 
Committee to take the position of Evangelist in Constantinople [and] is no 
longer a member of our missionary board." In Constantinople (modern day 
Istanbul) in 1910, Levertoff met the lady who would later become his wife, 
Beatrice Spooner-Jones. ''* She was Welsh not Jewish. They returned to England 
to get married. In 1911, with the LJS he attended an important Jewish missions 
conference in Stockholm, Sweden. '^ That same year, Levertoff moved with his 
family to Warsaw. ''' He would soon (again) change employers and begin a new 
career in academia. 

Germany: Teacher and Scholar 

Levertoff's life solely as a professional missionary would soon come to an end 
since he would have a new job in a new city. He was appointed to the position 
of teacher of Hebrew and Rabbinics with the Institutum Judaicum 
Delitzschianum (IJD), a postgraduate institute for Jewish missions founded by 
Franz Delitzsch in Leipzig, Germany. Otto von Harling, the IJD's director, 
publicized that Levertoff was relocating from Warsaw to Leipzig on 1 April 
1912,'^ to take over the teaching position at the IJD, which had been left vacant 
by the death of Jechiel Zebi Herschensohn-Lichtenstein'** (hereafter 

'^ In my comments, I refer to Levertoff's own English translation of Hu veAni, "Two of 

Them"; Cf. Paul P. Levertoff. "Two of Them" in Henry Einspruch (ed.). When Jews face 

Christ [First Edition] (Baltimore, MD: The Mediator, 1932), 144-156. Note Levertoff's 

translation is not published in the second edition of Einspruch's When Jews face Christ 

(Brooklyn: American Board of Missions to the Jews, 1939). 

^■^ Denise Levertov, New & Selected Essays (New York; New Directions Books, 1992), 259. 

'^ Hermann L. Strack, Jahrbuch der evangelischen Judenmission/Yearbookof the 

Evangelical Missions among the Jews, Vol. 2 (Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichssche Buchhandlung, 

1913), 7. 

^'' Denise Levertov, Light Up The Cave (New York: New Directions Books, 1981), 241. 

'^ Otto von Harling, "An die Gesellschaften fiir Judenmission und die Freunde des 

Institutum Judaicum Delitzschianum!" in Saat auf Hoffnung 49 (1912), 92. 

'^ Herschensohn-Lichtenstein (1831-1912) translated about half of the Tanach into 

Yiddish. He was also a prolific Hebrew writer who among his many writings wrote 

Paul Phillip Levertoff 27 

Lichtenstein). He was a JBJ niaskiP'' of Romanian Hassidic background who had 
held the position from 1885 until his death on 12 February 1912. A year later, 
Levertoff and a colleague posthumously published Lichtenstein' s revised 
Matthew commentary in Hebrew.^" The IJD's class schedules from 1912 to 1917 
(published in its journal Saat auf Hoffnung) have Levertoff teaching a variety of 
courses: Yiddish language, the New Testament in Hebrew based on 
Lichtenstein' s commentary, Midrash, Isaac Troki's polemical work Hizzuk 
Emunah, various books of the Tanach based on traditional Rabbinic 
commentaries, and a variety of other similar subjects in Jewish studies, 
Rabbinics and the New Testament. 

Levertoff seemed to flourish in his new job for the next few years despite 
having to endure unusual adversity for several years. During World War I 
(1914-1916), he was under house arrest as a prisoner of war because he was a 
Russian citizen. This did not in any way stop him academically; he was quite 
prolific. In addition to Hebrew, he now wrote extensively in German which 
included a number of articles for Saat auf Hoffnung. According to his older 

The War [WW I] deprived him of his post, but kept him in Germany until the Armistice, as a 
prisoner who, it is interesting to note, was, in spite of many hardships, commissioned by the 
University [of Leipzig] to write three books: 

1. The edition and German translation, with commentary, of the Pesikta Rabbati, a collection 
of ancient Synagogue homilies never before translated into any language. 

2. German translation of the whole of the Palestinian Talmud [Talmud Yerushalmi], with 

3. "Die religiose Denkweise der Chassidim" - the first systematic treatise on intellectual 
Jewish mysticism. 

The first and third of these works were produced, though, for lack of funds, only the third was 
published. The Talmud... never reached the public... [because of] the advent of a new "race- 
cultured" system in Germany... render[ed] its publication impossible.*^ 

Die religiose Denkweise der Chassidim did indeed see the light of day.''^ 
Levertoff eventually made an English adaptation of it that he later published as 

what is probably the only commentary on the whole New Testament in Hebrew 
(recently republished in Israel). He was more commonly known to Christian readers by 
the name of "J. Lichtenstein" and is not to be confused with the Hungarian Orthodox 
Rabbi, Isaac (Ignatz) Lichtenstein, another IBI. His story is a worthy topic for further 
investigation since so little biographical information available about him is published in 
English; See lorge Quinonez. "An Introductory Bio-bibliography to lechiel Zebi 
Herschensohn-Lichtenstein (1831-1912)" in Kesher 15 (Summer 2002), 78-89. 
'' The maskilim (singular maskil) were participants of the Haskalah, the "enlightenment", a 
lewish movement originating in 18th century Germany aimed at modernizing lewish life 
and thought or the integration of lews into the larger society. Notable features within the 
movement was maskilim cooperation with liberal-minded Christian thinkers and that 
much of the maskilim literature was disseminated in Hebrew; Cf. Shmuel Feiner & David 
Sorkin, New Perspectives on the Haskalah (Oregon: Littman, 2001). 

'"' lechiel Zebi Lichtenstein, Beur lesifrei berit hachadashah /Kerech [aleph]: Matai . Paul 
Levertoff & Heinrich Laible (eds.) (Leipzig, 1913); It was republished in Yehiel Tsvi 
Lichtenstein. Sugiyot nibharot besefer haberit hadashah [A Commentary on Selected Portions 
From the New Testament] (Jerusalem: Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 2002), 13-63. 
■*' Olga Tatjana Levertoff, "Paul Levertoff and the Jewish-Christian Problem", 99. 

28 Jorge Quinonez 

Love and the Messianic Age."^^ Both of these works were pioneering from the 
context of a comparative religion perspective. They were Levertoff's attempts in 
exploring similarities between Hassidic and New Testament theology. This 
study would later become very important theme in later writings because of his 
desire to create a theology that would be acceptable and used in a community 
of JBJ. The original text and German translation of Pesikta Rabbati is extant in 
manuscript form'*'' in the Stanford University Libraries. It is unfortunate that 
Levertoff never even had the opportunity to begin his translation and 
commentary of the Palestinian Talmud into German. 

His time with IJD lasted until 1918 when he left Germany for England. 
World War One had left him and his family impoverished.^' 

England: The Issue of a Hebrew-Christian Church 

Levertoff and his family returned to his wife's native Wales, where, between 
1919 through 1922, he held the position of librarian at St. Deiniol's Library, 
Hawarden (Flintshire County). During this time, he was also ordained by the 
Archbishop of Wales into the Church of England.^*" In 1923, he became Director 
of the East London Fund for the Jews and took over Holy Trinity, a church in 
Shoreditch while making his residence in Ilford. While in this position, he 
published the quarterly The Church and the Jews. As spiritual leader of Holy 
Trinity, he realized his goal of having a "Hebrew Christian Church" where JBJ 
could worship by making it familiar to them which "...would make a much 
stronger appeal than Missionary Societies organized by Gentiles. "^^ He followed 
in the tradition of Joseph Rabinowitz^** and Hayyim Yedidyah Pollak,^' to 
establish an independent community and congregation of JBJ. Levertoff 
appealed to "... those Jews who are not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ and of 
their Jewish origin ... to unite as a community . . . and institute Jewish Christian 
services of worship which would present our Faith in terms of the rich 
background of devotional and mystical Jewish traditions."™ 

■•^ Paul Levertoff, Die religiose Denkweise der Chassidim (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1918). 

■*' Paul Levertoff, Love and the messianic age in hitherto untranslated Hasidic writings with 

special reference to the Fourth Gospel (London, Episcopal Hebrew Christian Church, 1923). 

Denise Levertov Papers, M0601, Box33, Jjoldersl and 2. 
■*' Olga Tatjana Levertoff, "Paul Levertoff and the Jewish-Christian Problem", 100. 
■"^ Olga Tatjana Levertoff, "Paul Levertoff and the Jewish-Christian Problem", 100. 
■•^ Paul Levertoff, "Editorial" in The Church and the Jews, No. 79 (London, April 1929), 7 
[located in the Denise Levertov Papers, M0601, Box 34, Folder 25]. 

Kai Kjaer-Hansen, Joseph Rabinowitz and the Messianic Movement ( Grand Rapids, 
Michigan: Eerdmans/ Handsel, 1995). 

■^ Also known as Christian Theophilus Lucky (1864-1916); Cf. Henry Einspruch, "A 
Lamed-Vovnik" in Henry and Marie Einspruch (eds.) Would I? Would You? (Baltimore: 
Lederer Foundation, 1970), 74-78; Cf. Theodor Zoeckler, "Christian Theophilus Lucky" 
in Saat aufHoffnung 60, (Leipzig, 1917), 2-8. 

™ Paul Levertoff, The Possibility of a Hebrew-Christian Church (London: Conferences of 
Missionary Societies in Great Britain and Ireland, no date), 4; according to Gershon Nerel 
this same title appeared as an article in The Hebrew Christian Alliance Quarterly, vol. 7 

Paul Phillip Levertoff 29 

To that end in 1925, Levertoff published his Hebrew liturgy Meal of the Holy 
King^^ that was his own attempt to establish a liturgy for a Hebrew Christian 
church. In the late 19th century, the LJS and Rabinowitz,'^ had their own 
Hebrew liturgies for JBJ. Additionally, Levertoff's contemporary Leon 
Averbuch, a Romanian JBJ leader, employed several different Hebrew and 
Yiddish hymnbooks.^' Levertoff, now an Anglican priest, certainly had the 
option of employing the LJS's Hebrew translation of the Anglican Church's 
Book of Common Prayer (BCP), which the LJS had used in Christ Church under 
Michael Solomon Alexander in Jerusalem, a JBJ and Anglican Bishop in 
Jerusalem, in the mid-19th century. ''* However, rather than employ the standard 
Anglican liturgy in Hebrew he went to the trouble to write his own Hebrew 
liturgy that he entitled Meal of the Holy King. 

Levertoff read from a Torah scroll with tallit and kippah as part of the 
Hebrew services at Holy Trinity. While it was not a new thing to have a 
Hebrew liturgy for JBJ in England since the LJS had used the Hebrew BCP at 
times in their own chapel, this was one step closer to a native Jewish Christian 
liturgy. The liturgy was original, Jewish in authorship, faithful to the sources 
and not just a plain Hebrew translation of a Christian liturgical text. 
Comparisons to Rabinowitz's own Hebrew liturgy Tefilah, while interesting, are 
beyond the scope of this paper. 

Within the International Hebrew Christian Alliance (IHCA), Levertoff was 
highly respected, but he was not entirely associated with the Alliance itself. At a 
missionary conference held in Edinburgh in 1931, Frederick Levison, son of Sir 
Leon Levison, said of Levertoff: 

... the outstanding contribution came from Dr Paul Levertoff. . . It was on literature for the 
Jews, a subject on the Alliance's agenda, and Leon afplauded [Levertoff s] plea for the Hebrew 
tongue, so sacred to the Jew, and for a Hebrew New Testament and commentary. Dr Levertoff 
became ...a key member of the subsequent Commission on a Hebrew Christian Church, 

without wholly identifying himself with the Alliance. '' 

Levertoff himself mentions his involvement with the IHCA's Hebrew 
Christian Church Commission in 1932 in his publication. The Church and the 

'^ Seder kiddush disudhata demalka kadisha /The Order of Service of the Meal of the Holy King , 

Shoreditch (London: Mowbray, 1925). 

'^ Kai Kjaer-Hansen, "Two Nineteenth Century Hebrew ' Siddurim'" in Mishkan 25 (1996), 

50-59; Cf., Jorge Quinonez (ed.), TEFILAH/ Joseph Rabinowitz's/Prayerbook from 1892 /A 

Transcribed Edition (2000), unpublished mss. 

'^ The Hebrew Christian , International Hebrew Christian Alliance, Vol. LXII, No. 1, 

(March-May 1989), 11. 

'■* Even at the beginning of the twentieth century, LJS missionary, Aaron Bernstein, 

stated that ". . .our Hebrew Prayer Book has now become almost an obsolete book, as it is 

only used in Jerusalem and for missionary purposes." from Aaron Bernstein. "A 

Formation of a Hebrew-Christian Church: Is It Desirable?" in Jewish Missionary 

Intelligence (May 1902), 68. 

'' Frederick Levison, Christian and Jew/The Life of Leon Levison 1881-1936 (Edinburgh: The 

Pentland Press Ltd., 1989), 209-210. 

30 Jorge Quinonez 

fews.^^ In the same space, he presents his own draft for the "The Ten Principles 
of the Faith of the Hebrew Christian Church" much of which was later 
incorporated into the final version as "The Proposed Articles of Faith for the 
Hebrew Christian Church."'^ Nerel points out that the death of Levison in 1935 
drastically changed the IHCA's attitude towards a Hebrew Christian Church, 

... the IHCA . , . seriously considered establishing a Hebrew Christian Church . . . The main 
motivator for this was Sir Leon Levison, born in Safed and first President of the IHCA. , . 
However, after Levison's death in 1935, the IHCA drastically withdrew from its official policy 
to form a global Hebrew Christian church under its wings?^ 

The IHCA's change in policy signaled the end for further official discussion 
for a Hebrew Christian Church within the IHCA proper. However, for three 
decades with little or no aid from the IHCA, Levertoff led his congregation 
while keeping a low profile. 

During 1920s and 1930s, he transferred his scholarly prowess for ancient 
Jewish texts from the German into the English language. In 1933, along with 
Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon, he helped translate the Zohar into English 
for the first time for Soncino Press (see note 2). Such involved work on the 
Zohar by a JBJ had not been done in several centuries. '' Levertoff also translated 
the Sifre on Numbers," a halakhic midrashic text, into English for the first 
time." While he only translated about a fifth of the text, it served as the only 
available translation for the next 60 years until Jacob Neusner had a translation 
of his own published. ""^ 

During his tenure as the priest at Holy Trinity, in addition to leading a small 
community of JBJ, Levertoff assisted everyone from Hans HerzP', also a JBJ and 
son of Theodore Herzl, to providing succor to JBJ refugees from Austria and 

'•' Paul Levertoff, "Editorial" in The Church and the Jews, No. 91 (London, April 1932), 6-7 
[located in the Denise Levertov Papers, M0601, Box 34, Folder 27]. 

Robert!. Winer, The Calling/The History of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America. PA; 
MJAA (1990), 122-23; See also Gershon Nerel, "Creeds among Jewish Believers in Yeshua 
between World Wars" in Mishkan 34 (2001), 65-69. 

'* Gershon Nerel, "Attempts to Establish a 'Messianic Jewish Church' in Eretz-Israel" in 
Mishkan 28 (1998), 40. 

'' I am referring to the very lengthy Messianic commentary on the Zohar by the JBJ 
Johann Kemper (died 1714); Cf. Elliot R. Wolfson. "Messianism in the Christian 
Kabbalah of Johann Kemper," in Millenarianism and Messianism in the Early Modern 
European Culture: Jewish Messianism in the Early Modern World, edited by Matthew D. 
Goldish and Richard H. Popkin (the Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001), 
139-187. For a good biographical account of Kemper, see the chapter entitled "'Rabbi' 
Johan Kemper in Uppsala" in Hans Joachim Schoeps. Philosemitismus im Barock 
(Germany: J.C.B. (Paul Siebeck) Tubingen, 1952), 92-133. 

" Paul P. Levertoff, Midrash Sifre on Numbers/ Selections from Early Rabbinic Scriptural 
Interpretations (London: S. P. C. K. ,1926). 

•"^ H.L. Strack and G. Stemberger, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash (Scotland: T&T 
Clark, 1991), 292. 

"■^ According to Strack and Stemberger, 292: Jacob Neusner, Sifre to Numbers: An American 
Translation and Explanations, 2 vols (Atlanta, 1986). 

""^ This is a very tragic story. Hans Herzl became a JBJ in 1924 and committed suicide in 
1930; Cf. Einspruch, When Jews face Christ, 12-13; Cf. Hans Herzl, Letter to Mr. Levertoff. 
July 29, 1926 (Denise Levertov Papers, M0601, Boxll, Jolder 8). 

Paul Phillip Levertoff 31 

Nazi Germany." A very interesting aspect about Levertoff's life in England, 
which I will only briefly touch upon was Levertoff's relations with the Jewish 
intelligentsia of the time, many fleeing Nazi oppression or on their way to 
America or British Mandatory Palestine, who made London their home for a 
time. For example, Levertoff corresponded with the maskil Joseph Brenner''^ and 
had many discussions with the Yiddish writer Sholem Asch." Levertoff surely 
kept current with the Hebrew press of his time as J. Klausner observed: 

In [Levertoff's] introduction [to Ben ha-Adam] he indulges in argument against "Ahad ha- 
Am," Dr. Neumark, S. J. Horowitz, Dr. Bernfeld and the present writer [Klausner], because 
of their articles in Ha-Shiloach on the "Nature of Judaism" they did not perceive the 
advantages of Christianity .^^ 

A Lost Work 

One intriguing work by Levertoff that unfortunately no longer appears to be 
extant is Christ and the Shekinah, which Lev Gillet, a friend of Levertoff, first 
mentioned in 1939: 

This question of the Shekinah and its relationship with Christology is, as we know it, in the 
center of Dr. Levertoff's theological concerns. This is why the work Christ and the Shekinah 

that for a long time he prepared on the topic will be "the book of his life. " 

Several years later, in 1942, he alludes to it again: "Levertoff has also written 
a great work still unpublished on Christ and the Shekinah."^'' Levertoff as early as 
the 1920s when he wrote Love and the Messianic Age was trying to integrate 
Christian and Jewish theologies as Gillet explains "...[Levertoff] understood the 
importance of an intellectual appeal and the necessity of expressing the 
theological concepts of Christianity in Jewish terms (according to him, along the 
lines of the Shekinah teaching and of Hasidic mysticism)."™ Gillet first refers to 
Christ and the Shekinah in 1939 and later in 1942. It was obviously a late writing 
(most likely begun in the late 1930s) and by the tone of Gillet's comments very 
serious to Levertoff. Christ and the Shekinah is only mentioned here because of 
the potential importance it could have in answering the question which is still 
unanswered: How successful was Levertoff in creating a theology of Jewish- 
Christianity melding Hassidic theology with the New Testament? This question 
is especially important to modern JBJ who struggle with practically the same 

" Olga Tatjana Levertoff, "Paul Levertoff and the Jewish-Christian Problem", 109. 

•"^ Cf. Leonard Prager, Yiddish Culture in Britain , 405; Cf. Yitzchak Bakon, "Rumors" in 

From Within the Band (Tel Aviv: Papyrus Publishing, 1982) [Hebrew]. 

'''' Paul Levertoff, "Editorial Notes" in The Church and the Jews, No. 175, London (July 

1953), 4-5. 

•■^ Joseph Klausner, Jesus Of Nazareth, 124. 

•"^ Lev Gillet, "Questions Concernant la Chekinah" in Lev Gillet (ed.), Judaism and 

Christianity/ Essays presented to the Rev. Paul P. Levertoff, 33; This quote is translated from 

the French. 

•"^ Lev Gillet, Communion in the Messiah (Lutterworth Press, 1942), 84 n. 1. 

™ Lev Gillet, Communion in the Messiah, 203. 

32 Jorge Quinonez 

question of how to establish a feasible theology for JBJs that is compatible with 
the New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism/^ 


Not the average missionary apostate as the Jewish press might have depicted at 
various times, Levertoff continued to write in Hebrew and English in his final 
two decades. His Hebrew Christian church service did not seem to thrive after 
his death on 31 July 1954. He followed in the footsteps of Michael Solomon 
Alexander in establishing a Hebrew Christian Church connected to the 
Anglican Church. In hindsight, unlike other JBJ maskilim such as Herschensohn- 
Lichtenstein, Isaac Salkinson,^^ or Hayyim Yedidyah Pollak, today Levertoff is 
more remembered and this because of his major scholarly achievements. For 
example, the English edition of the Zohar he helped translate is still widely 
used today. His Hebrew Torah service at Holy Trinity portended at things to 
come half a century later in the USA with the formation of the modern 
Messianic Jewish congregational movement. Additionally, he is still published 
in Israel today: his book Ben /la-Adajn" and translation ha-Amek S/ie 'ala^'* have 
been reprinted. As probably the last of the JBJ maskilim in the early 20th 
century,^' Levertoff lived in the twilight of the Haskalah and died 31 July 1954, at 
the dawn of the modern Jewish state. He is today perhaps more relevant to us 
than he was 75 years ago when he seemed nothing more than a fringe 
theological curiosity. He was both a congregational leader and capable Jewish 
scholar; he engaged and interacted with Jewish thinkers, and helped the 
Hebrew-Christian movement push in directions which reflected the modes of 
thought of traditional Judaism. Suggested topics for future investigation are the 
relationship his Hebrew writings have had in the history of Modern Hebrew 
literature and his polemic relation with the Jewish intellectuals of his time. 

^^ I tried with great effort to locate Christ and the Shekinah to no avail. 

^^ Hanna Scolnicov, "The Hebrew Who Turned Christian: The First Translator of 

Shakespeare into the Holy Tongue" in Shakespeare Survey, Vol, 54: Shakespeare and 

Religions, Peter Holland (ed.), November (2001), 182-190. 

" Jerusalem: Dolphin (1968). 

""^ Jerusalem: Keren Ahvah Meshihit (1999). 

'' Cf., ". . .missionaries tried to reach the maskil through Hebrew as late as the third 

decade of the [twentieth century]" (Leonard Prager. Yiddish Culture in Britain, 391).